Whistler, British Columbia People throw around the phrase “Olympic spirit” all too often.
What’s it even mean? It’s a phrase people throw out when they can’t really describe the scene at the Olympics.
The host city of Vancouver is culturally rich and full of diversity. It’s hopping, and there may have been 200,000 people in downtown Vancouver on Sunday.
That’s certainly the Olympic spirit — but it’s more than that.
It was seeing Hannah Kearney win a gold medal in women’s moguls on a rainy night at Cypress Mountain, denying Canada its first gold on its home soil. It was, days later, seeing Canadian snowboard cross competitor and hometown girl Maelle Ricker win on home soil.
It was seeing Johnny Spillane’s mom, Nancy, come running up looking to hug anyone after his first silver medal performance.
It was seeing the city of Vancouver on a bluebird day bustling with thousands in the streets — most of them in Canadian gear.
It was seeing the host nation — known for its gentle and welcoming people — always wearing that maple leaf on their chest. It was Canada proving that yeah, they are good people, but they’re also a real proud nation.
It was seeing the U.S. Ski Jumping Team — maybe the most underfunded team in all of the Olympics — competing. Three guys, all younger than 21, essentially paying their own way to be on the big stage. It was seeing them do it, not for fame or glory, but because it was something they love.
It was seeing four American Nordic combined guys standing on a podium with silver medals, smiling and taking everything in. It was Todd Lodwick jumping into the stands, so overcome with joy that the final piece of his Nordic resume was complete.
It was, two days later, seeing Brett Camerota give up his spot in the Large Hill Individual Gundersen so 19-year-old Taylor Fletcher could experience Nordic combined in the Olympics. It was the Nordic combined team proving in an individual sport that teamwork still is the most powerful thing.
It was taking a cab ride to East Vancouver and seeing tent city, where thousands of homeless people were put up — or hid from the cameras, depending whom you believe — for the games. It was seeing that human despair and realizing that the Olympic Games are just that — games. It was realizing there are more important things.
It was watching parallel giant slalom in consecutive days in the most miserable weather possible. It was seeing those competitors carrying on where snowboarding got its start and still smiling the whole time.
It was all those things. The Olympic spirit is bringing together people who normally wouldn’t get together.
It was sitting in a pub in Whistler one night, sun just setting and a dozen or so guys talking about the Olympics.
There was a guy from Tampa, Fla., who’d been to seven Olympics, and his buddy who loved the competitiveness and had been to three. There were several ski bums, ranging in ages 22 to 52. There were professionals, college kids and service workers.
“To the Olympics,” the seven-timer said, glass raised.
To the Olympics.